Lower Back Pain in Children and Adolescents

Lower back pain is one of the most common symptoms among adults, but it's also common among children and adolescents. Here, we'll tell you everything you should know if your child has lower back pain and how to help them at home.
Lower Back Pain in Children and Adolescents

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Lower back pain is also referred to as lumbago. It’s more common in adolescents than in children, although in adult life, it’s increasingly frequent. It’s a symptom that many clinical pictures and diseases of all ages have in common. If we refer to anatomy, the lumbar spine is a transition zone that supports a large part of the body’s weight.

Young children suffer the least from lower back pain. However, the incidence increases with age; as adolescents approach adulthood, they present lower back pain more frequently.

Causes of lower back pain in children and adolescents

Work activities, daily stress, and lack of healthy habits are usually the most common causes of lower back pain in adults. However, when it comes to children and adolescents, suspicions have more to do with congenital, traumatological disorders or are secondary to some direct or indirect trauma. In addition, there are other common causes of low back pain, such as the following:

A young girl experiencing lower back pain.
  • Excessive effort: In these cases, there’s no major injury. They usually improve spontaneously, although sometimes they require conservative treatment with physiotherapy.
  • Puberty: Some theories speak of the relationship between the onset of puberty and pain in the lower back, which demonstrates the influence of hormonal changes in the locomotor system.
  • Schooling: School backpacks with a load that exceeds 10% of the student’s body weight are an important risk factor for lower back pain.
  • Lack of physical care: Lack of physical activity, as well as excessive training and toxic habits, such as smoking, can trigger low back pain.
  • Posture: The way a child sits on the school chair is another extremely important factor, as it’s a posture that they maintain for long periods during the school years. Therefore, sitting incorrectly is really a risk factor for the health of children and adolescents.
  • Emotional factors: This is the case with stress or depression, for example. The body expresses emotional situations through postural attitudes, which can trigger lower back pain.

How to prevent lower back pain?

The prevention of lower back pain involves different areas, among them, healthy eating habits are among the first that we should consider. Conscientious physical activity, including abdominal strengthening to protect the spine, is also important.

Parents should learn about postural hygiene and, in turn, they should teach it to their children. That way, they’ll perform activities of daily living and posture at school in a healthy manner.

There are more and more preventive programs in education that improve the body awareness of children and adolescents. These include theoretical information and physical exercises that improve the health of students in the short and long term. Teachers coordinate these programs in conjunction with health professionals.

Treatment for lower back pain in children and adolescents

As with any health issue, treatment will depend on the cause and the clinical condition of each patient. In any case, broadly speaking, we can describe the conservative treatment that’s carried out through physical therapy for the treatment of low back pain in children and adolescents.

Pediatric physical therapy includes education about one’s own body and preventive measures, such as postural hygiene. In addition, it uses physical agents, such as electroanalgesia, to reduce local pain. It also involves manual techniques, which, in addition to influencing the reduction of pain, work on the cause that produces lower back pain. This is accompanied by therapeutic exercises; some of which are done during sessions and others of which are prescribed to be done at home.

It’s essential that the caregivers accompany the child or adolescent, both in the session and in the activities prescribed for at the home. Physical and emotional accompaniment helps the treatment to be more effective and better accepted. As does encouraging recreational physical activity as another habit in daily life.

An elementary aged girl sitting at her desk, holding onto her lower back.

What can I do at home if my child has lower back pain?

After consulting with your pediatrician and ruling out any serious lower back pain, you can help your child at home. The child or adolescent can lie face down, with a pillow under their pubis. Using an essential oil or a gentle cream as a gliding medium, massage the lower back.

Massages should be done with the whole hand in contact with the skin of the child, avoiding pressing the areas where the bones are more prominent, such as the spine. The aim is to “knead” the muscular area, with alternating movements between one hand and the other. Massages can also be complemented with the application of local heat with warm or moderately hot compresses. However, you should keep in mind that these tips don’t replace the treatment performed by a professional.

It’s essential that parents know the importance of prevention during the stages of development, in which the body grows rapidly. And it’s very easy to incorporate habits, both healthy and unhealthy. So, education and observation at home can really make a difference.

Therefore, if your child suffers from lower back pain, a medical consultation should be made first. The pediatrician will determine if medical treatment with analgesics will be necessary or if it should be complemented with physiotherapy. And, if it’s the lower back pain is mild and without injuries or other complications, you can help your child at home with gentle massages.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.